Students dressed in bright orange tshirts, boys zooming around on bikes during school hours and a minion (known from the Despicable Me films) dancing and offering hugs.
St Melâ€™s College was a strange sight to behold last Thursday - strange but wonderful.
The occasion wasthe promotion of the upcoming Cycle Against Suicide. At the end of this month, the cycle will travel through Longford, and St Melâ€™s and the nearby MeÃ¡n Scoil Mhuire have joined forces to act as an anchor school, welcoming the cyclists, promoting the event, organising activities and generally raising awareness of mental health.
Link teacher for St Melâ€™s and their Guidance Councillor, Ms Hazel Concar, explained, â€œWhat happened was MeÃ¡n Scoil Mhuire had suggested the project and they realised they needed a lot of space.â€
The school then made contact with St Melâ€™s and the project became a combined one.
â€œItâ€™s a great opportunity for the two schools to come together,â€ Hazel pointed out.
Along with teachers Ms Concar and Ms Chrissie Hardiman, who teaches PE in Scoil Mhuire, the project is steered by a committee of thirteen students; six Transition Years from St Melâ€™s and seven fifth years from Scoil Mhuire. They have already carried out great work in the name of the charity, and are enjoying it.
Explaining that they had put up posters, attained sponsors and held a â€˜hug a minion dayâ€™, Daire Ã“â€™MuirÃ added, â€œIt was something completely different to anything Iâ€™ve done before.â€
Ben Ryan stated that the project was â€œgreat craic altogetherâ€ and revealed that he had learned a lot, before praising the staff of the schools for their support.
The students also referenced the Positive Health weeks held in both schools during the year, further raising awareness of mental health among the youth of Longford.
According to Chrissie, the students are responding well to the cycle and its message and she added, â€œI think itâ€™s very important for just heightening awareness of mental health issues among adolescentsâ€.
Those sentiments were echoed by Hazel, who went on to say, â€œItâ€™s great to create a buzz around the school, to create a positive atmosphere.
â€œItâ€™s important that students know itâ€™s okay not to feel okay and itâ€™s absolutely okay to ask for help.â€
Though the small group have been in planning stages for a number of months now, the event has really kicked off, and there is great excitement throughout both schools, with students eager to get involved in any way they can. This is proven in the sales of the Cycle Against Suicide tshirts and wristbands in St Melâ€™s, where the tshirts had to be re-ordered. One of the committee members, TomÃ¡s Skelly, has also learned the Cycleâ€™s official song and treated some of his peers and the Irish TV team, who were there to film the launch, to a performance of it on Thursday.
â€œThe buzz is really building up now,â€ Hazel said. â€œThey enjoyed the positive health week and thatâ€™s really set the ball rolling.â€
Complimenting her fellow staff members and the people of Longford for their generosity and support, Hazel added that while people may think negatively when they hear of mental health, â€œitâ€™s important to cultivate your positive mental healthâ€.
The Cycle Against Suicide will come to Longford from Thursday, April 30 until Friday, May 1. While here, the cyclists and all involved will enjoy the hospitality of the people of Longford, particularly the two local schools, who have planned some excellent activities for the occasion, including music, videos and guest speakers.